Want to be happy? Be a Catholic.

Happiness – something we all want, but we never seem to be able to find it, eh?

Saw an interesting talk today at #BNIUnboxed by Neil Pasricha, the author of The Book of Awesome. During this talk, he listed five things we can do which, according to the research he has studied, will make you happier. What I found absolutely fascinating that the research seemed to miss was that four of the five things are essentially what good Catholics should be more or less doing. What we are taught at children to do, and many nuns and brothers do everyday.

He says if you do one (or more) of these 5 things for 20 days straight, you will develop a habit that will make you happier. Since all of these apparently make people happier, it’s a good habit to develop.

  • Go for a brisk, nature walk at least 3 times a week.
  • Do a “20 minute replay.”
    • This is defined as writing in a journal for 20 minutes, but it can be any type of self-reflection on the day at the end of the day for 20 minutes. An opportunity to list everything that happened, not a place to complain about what went wrong, nor specifically celebrate anything, but rather just restate it.
  • Do Random “Conscientious” Acts of Kindness
  • Meditate
  • Perform Five Gratitudes
    • This is a method where you list 3 things that you are thankful for, one thing that was a problem, and one thing you are working on that you will be thankful for in the future.

Here is the funny part. I heard those five things and found myself thinking, “if you want to be happy, become a Catholic Nun or Monk.” Why? Well, because four of the five items are what nuns and brothers do pretty much every day. What makes it particularly interesting is that the very start of his presentation, he explained how nuns’ autobiographies were used by the positive psychologists to discover that simply being happier is correlated with longer life expectancy.

Here’s why I think this is just being Catholic (well, everything but the brisk walk.)

  • The 20 minute replay is simply proper prayers. Most people think that prayers are simply petitionary, asking God for something. I know I used to think that. However, as Fr. Mike has explained in his many great videos on prayer , a big part of prayer is simply telling God about your day. Yes, God is omnipotent, but that doesn’t meant that he doesn’t want to hear you talk about it. This is the 20 minute replay. Telling God what happened, the ups and downs. Just laying it out there. Not asking for anything, not complaining, just telling the story.
  • Random Conscientious Acts of Kindness are basically being a good Catholic. Doing good to others, without expecting anything back in return. Doing it because it is right, not because there is a personal benefit.
  • Meditation is another prayer item. If you have every seriously done the rosary, or gone to adoration, you have pretty much meditated. Yes, you haven’t moaned “OOOOOHHHHMMMMM” or sat in the lotus position. However, as many who have studied this in detail will tell you, the repetitive nature of the rosary and concentration on the mysteries is meditation. As is the quiet contemplation and mindfulness within adoration. This is special, because the rosary and adoration are particularly Catholic practices. So we have another example of “you want to be happy, be Catholic.”
  • Finally, the five gratitudes is, once again, a form of prayer. When we pray we thank God for all of the blessings he has given us and the graces he provides. We also share and offer up our suffering (our “thorns”), both in petitionary prayers, but also to unite them to the suffering of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of man. Finally, we ask God to help us with those projects we are just starting on.

So what does all this mean?

Well, it appears that if you pray for about a half hour every day, you will be happier; According to Neil, it’s scientifically proven. But, I think it’s important to note how you should pray.

  • Share your day with God, just as a child shares her day at school with her father.
  • Take at least 10 minutes to pray the rosary or have silent contemplation with the father, listen for his voice.
  • Thank God for the blessings you have been given and the graces during that day. (This is a separate thing than the sharing the story, btw.)
  • Finally, offer up your suffering and petitions to him.

And when that is all done, the next day, try even harder to do well for God. Do random acts of kindness and compassion. Go to confession so you don’t have any weights you are dragging around so you can be that much more compassionate.

And suddenly, by simply celebrating your faith, you have accomplished 4 out of the 5 methods for being happier.

Kelly J. Rose

ps. If you want to be 5/5 just become a Franciscan, and go for nature walks. 😉

Five Books that counter the secular orthodoxy

Is the atmosphere murky? Or is it just me? It’s no secret that the every day social, professional and even personal environments most of us exist in have become  be super-saturated with the secular religion of the religion-less. Despite their best efforts, atheists of the modern age have attempted to sustain a secular orthodoxy built on the false and very unstable premise that Science and the Catholic Faith are somehow intrinsically incompatible.

Rather ironically, and despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, atheists have elevated their secular orthodoxy from theory to fact, and then from fact to dogma. Unfortunately, they did so without consulting the five books below that make utter hash out of the most common atheistic myths concerned Science vs. Religion.

Myth #1: The Medieval Ages Were “Dark”

Book of Choice: God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science– James Hannam carefully refutes the trend within modern culture to associate the Medieval  Era with superstition and ignorance.  Additionally he addresses the scientific seeds that were planted during the Medieval Era which would eventually blossom to give us incredible scientific thinkers like Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton.

Myth #2: Science is the only method of thinking that provides truth about reality.

Book of Choice: Galileo’s Mistake – Wade Rowland provides both historical context and a thorough analysis of Galileo’s philosophy as he examines Galileo’s infamous trial of 1633.

Myth #3: The popular narratives about Galileo and other scientists being persecuted or at odds with organized religion are true.

Book of Choice: Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion – Ronald Numbers carefully  parses popular fiction from historical fact regarding some of the most prevalent misconceptions and inaccuracies surrounding the relationship of Religion and Science throughout history.

Myth #4: Catholics don’t believe in Science.

Book of Choice:  Roman Catholicism and Modern Science: A History – Don O’Leary attacks the idea that Roman Catholicism is opposed to scientific exploration by providing a clear and exceptionally diverse account of ecclesiastical and scientific communications throughout history.

Myth #5: Faith and Science are Fundamentally Incompatible

Book of Choice: The Last Superstition – Edward Feser systematically dismantles the atheistic misconception that there is currently some ideological and eternal war going on between the Religion and Science.

Other articles worth reading

Collatz Conjecture Ramblings.

So playing with the Collatz conjecture, and I feel like this is something where if we can show for any n > 1, there exists a m such that f_m(n) < n , and then we simply prove this by induction, and we’ll be done.

I can show this is true for a list of items mod 3, 9, etc. and there is a clear pattern to demonstrate this by building on this:

n = k (mod 4) has 3n+1 = 3k+1 (mod 4), thus if k=1, 3n+1 | 4, thus Collatz will go 3n+1 / 4 before it could possibly become odd again, and thus we simply show 3n/4+1/4 <= n , which is relatively easy  and we are good to go with this one.

Similarly if n is even, we have immediately that n -> n/2 which is less than n.

So we have if n=k (mod 4) k=0,1,2, then n will eventually drop below itself using the Collatz procedure. What about if k=3?

Well, we have

3k+1 = 10 = 2 (mod 4). Now, obviously we will need to divide by 2, and we will get another odd number, because 2 / 2 (mod 4) = 1 (mod 2) (since 3*2, and 1*2 = 2 (mod 4)). This means though, that we have (3n+1)/2 = 1 or 3 (mod 4), and it isn’t hard to see how this becomes exponentially complex. Yet, to me, I feel like if I can show that f_m(n) < n for some m, then we have proven the conjecture. It just would take some chewing of this irritant to get there. It isn’t hard to see that you can expand this to cover n = k (mod 8) and get most n’s covered in this circumstance, but then you miss a few and have to go to mod 16, etc.

The question is, is there an obvious enough pattern to be able to prove that for n = k (mod 2^l) and use that as leverage…

We can wash rinse and repeat somewhat, but the math becomes somewhat complicated (and ugly) as the different pathways diverge. Yet, I think if there is a way to chew up the modular arithmetic, you’d be able to approach this using an inductive method.

Hrm… Times like this makes me wonder how hard it would be to get paid a decent salary doing math research again.

Forgetting Results

This is a wonderful discussion on some pretty straightforward math.

Gödel's Lost Letter and P=NP


Henry Smith was a mathematician of the 19th century who worked mainly in number theory. He especially did important work on the representation of numbers by various quadratic forms. We have discussed how even in something seemingly settled, like Joseph Lagrange’s theorem that every natural number is representable as a sum of four squares, new questions are always around—especially when one considers complexity.

Today Ken and I want to discuss a private slip of forgetfulness, and how often others may have done the same.

For a variety of reasons we recently were thinking about one of the most basic questions in linear algebra: the solvability of

$latex displaystyle Ax = b, &fg=000000$

where $latex {A}&fg=000000$ and $latex {b}&fg=000000$ are fixed and $latex {x}&fg=000000$ is to be determined. Over a field there is a polynomial time algorithm that determines whether there is a solution and finds one if there is. The…

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Four ways we get drawn in by magical literature

At least 20% of my current to-read list...
At least 20% of my current to-read list…

Shadowed figures stare at lit boxes
Power of knowledge from all ages at their touch
Feline pleasures instead feel their eyes
And the story will continue without them.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, working my way through the Story of Fire and Ice series (aka. Game of Thrones books). I realized a trend to this series which seems to be overwhelmingly common amongst most science fiction and fantasy literature. A “trope,” if you may – A character or some all knowing creature who presents cryptic clues to the protagonists or antagonists which hints to future events to come.

This acts as a driver of interest for the reader, but leaves them guessing about what is going to happen next. I know that I enjoy this style of literature, but I am left wondering, why do I find this so fun to read? Why does it work so well as a story structure and keep me coming back for more?

Most importantly, how can a potential writer use this to their advantage to make interesting books?

Why does partially spoiling a book make that book so appealing?

It allows a small bit of the author’s real person to enter the story

When an author adds mystical clues to their story, they are subtly spoiling it for you. They want you to know what is coming, but they cannot just outright tell you. If they did, then they could skip the entire series that leads up to that release. However, by using an omniscient character in the novel, the author enters into the story, speaking directly with their own characters and the reader.

The writer has been dropping these clues throughout the book  like hidden treasure, giving all of the readers something to talk about around the water cooler. I have read tons of theories about Game of Thrones specifically because there are tons of cryptic clues hidden throughout the book and TV show. Each one built up from these cryptic clues and prophecies.

Note though, the prophecies must be cryptic. If they are not, then the book would be spoiled and boring. So remember that…

Most wrapped boxes are fun and exciting, until they are opened.

This is simple way to explain why LOST was so awesome until it wasn’t. The big problem with LOST was it felt like a Christmas tree, every episode being  loaded with more and more awesomely shaped and sized gifts, each of them hinting at some very cool and deep underlying universe where all of the bat shit craziness made sense. Each one a prophecy of something mind blowing to come. Yet, around season 4, viewers started getting a bit pissed, the piles of boxes kept piling up, but no one was opening them, there was no release.

Then, the worst came to past and it was clear why they weren’t being opened. They contained garbage and disappointment. Most of the prophecies were answered in a way tangential to the overlying story, and when they were found out, it felt more like seeing the wizard behind the curtain, than learning something foundational that made all of the other pieces fit together in a satisfying way.

If the wrapped box is a puzzling prophecy, that almost implies that the answers should not be lame or silly. Why? Because they are the structural answers to the story. Regardless, a puzzling prophecy is a mystery and…

Mysteries are cool and fun to figure out

Everyone loves mysteries. You can talk about it with friends. Come up with theories, each one progressively more complex. Yet, no one loves mysteries when you have to bang your head against the wall every page of a book.

I think cryptic prophecies are a fantastic halfway point for this. They give you just enough pieces to come up with intricate theories, but then reel it in every once and a while so you are brought back to the main story thread, and generally you learn the solution to the prophecy in pieces, not with one grand reveal (a la Sherlock Holmes.)

If you spread this out over multiple books, I think you pretty much guarantee yourself a fan club. If the book is good, people will find others online and create communities solely dedicated to trying to figure it all out. This works particularly well because they know the writer already has an answer to it and is slowly revealing it.

I’ve seen this happen with reality TV shows even. People love to try to suss out the intentions of the writer. We, in a way, enjoy being spoiled. As long as we are doing the spoiling to ourselves.

It gives the appearance of magic and purpose to our lives

This is deeper and more metaphysical. When we read stories, we find it easier to write our own story of our lives. The integration of prophecy and magic in a storybook seems to open prophecy and magic in our own lives. I don’t mean that people who read Harry Potter will suddenly discover how to cast spells and fly, nor do I mean that people who read Game of Thrones are going to see dragons flying around London.

Instead, it gives the seed of the child in our psyche. The possibility of a grander narrative to our lives. We read stories, sometimes of grand characters and sometimes of peons, but in the process we take on a bit of those characters, if only for an instant. We become the warrior, the maiden, the smith, the crone, the father, the mother or even the stranger, and while that moment is fleeting, it gives us a bit of magic ourselves. Those prophecies only apply to those characters in the book, but possibly there is some prophecy we don’t know that applies to us.

Some sort of magic that might give us purpose.

It draws us in to solve the cryptic prophecy, but in the end that didn’t even matter. It was only a dance between the reader and the writer.

The transcendence of being

It takes a couple of reads to understand, but it’s a good analysis of some pretty major philosophical structures underlying the idea of God.

Just Thomism

Hypothesis: Physics and mathematics are those discourses in which Nominalism involves no immediate contradiction. 

By “Nominalism” I mean the claim that predicated natures are beings of reason.* When we say “John is a man” then the predicate can be viewed without immediate contradiction as an ens rationis, abstracted from the concrete reality of “John” or “this man”.

But there is an immediate contradiction in assuming the same thing about “John is real” or “a being”. The real is divided by contradiction from the unreal or the being of reason. One is free to see “being” or “real” as the limit of abstraction, but the limit is not homogeneous with what leads up to it – at the most general level one hits something that does engender a contradiction if it is seen as merely logical, abstract, or ens rationis. 

But to leave it at this would give us the universe…

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